The 5 Most Common Injuries After a Motor Vehicle Collision

When a car accident happens, adrenaline kicks in immediately and can mask painful symptoms. The commotion at the scene, dealing with police officers, and sometimes being in shock can cause people not to realize the full extent of their injuries right away. The pain may be masked by the adrenaline and shock, and painful symptoms may not be felt until hours later.

After a car accident, symptoms that seem like normal aches and pains may be signaling hidden or more severe injuries. Based on our experience of helping people in the weeks and months following a car accident, we have put together a list of the 5 most common injuries we see:

1. Neck or Back Pain

During a car crash, significant forces are applied to the muscles and ligaments and soft tissues in our necks and backs, depending on the angles and velocities of the vehicles involved. Our neck and back tissues and structures are designed to absorb SOME of these forces, but sometimes they are more than our spine can handle.

Sometimes it takes a few days before the pain becomes so severe that a person who thought they were ok at the scene or just sore for a day or two after a crash suddenly finds him or herself unable to stand the pain. It’s almost as if the neck and spine structures and tissues work really hard to bring things back into alignment after a collision, and either they are successful, and the person gets better, or they give up, and the personal all of a sudden becomes much worse.

Oftentimes, neck and back pain can be referred pain or radiating pain, making it more difficult to identify where the injury is. For example, we have seen several clients who thought they had a shoulder injury, but in reality, it was a neck injury with pain radiating out and down from the neck into the shoulder. The same thing may occur with a low back injury – the pain can radiate out and down into the hips and legs making the person think they have a hip injury and masking a low back injury.

Either way, if your pain does not improve over the hours and days following a collision, pay attention to the symptoms and seek medical attention. Although whiplash injuries are often dismissed in movies and television, the injuries that may be lurking are all too real and are more common than people who have not been in a wreck might realize.

2. Abdominal Pain

Following a car crash, pain around the chest and stomach may signal organ damage or internal bleeding from a seatbelt. The seatbelt is designed to stop your body from moving out of the seat when a crash occurs.

Depending on the forces involved in the crash, the seat belt may apply significant pressure to your shoulder, chest, hip, thighs, and abdomen. If you experience abnormal abdominal pain after an auto accident, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.

Georgia law requires seatbelt usage, so please remember that the potential harm that comes from wearing a seatbelt is usually greatly outweighed by the risk of much greater harm if you don’t wear one. Please follow the law when it comes to seatbelt usage for adults and children.

3. Knee Pain

Depending on the circumstances, a car crash can cause damage to the knees and legs. A rear-impact collision most commonly results in larger passengers or those sitting fairly close to the steering wheel to strike their bent knee on the dash itself. This blunt trauma can cause injury to the knee(s).

The most common knee injury is a torn meniscus. This means the soft tissues that cushion the knee are torn when they strike an object like a dash. Usually, these injuries manifest as pain when walking, going up or downstairs, or bending the knee.

Sometimes, a torn meniscus feels like it’s ok, and all of a sudden it “catches” and the person feels a sharp shooting pain. No matter how long the pain lasts, please see an orthopedic surgeon to have your knee examined. A torn meniscus cannot repair itself and must be repaired surgically.

4. Headaches

If you did not experience regular headaches before a car accident, you should seek a doctor immediately. Headaches can signal several trauma-induced conditions, including whiplash, a concussion, and brain damage. Even if the crash wasn’t especially severe, the force of a deploying airbag could cause mild concussions.

Sometimes trauma-induced headaches are accompanied by ringing in the ears. This is a condition called tinnitus that needs to be treated by a neurologist or neurosurgeon as it can be a sign of a brain injury or damage to the inner ear from the explosion of the airbags or other loud concussive noises that occur during a crash.

5. Depression and Anxiety

Not all auto injuries are physical. The vast majority of our clients experience feelings of anxiety, fear, flashbacks, and other symptoms after a collision. Some have a fear of riding with others, some have a fear of driving through the same location where the wreck occurred, and for some it can be a paralyzing fear.

The symptoms they experience are akin to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and therapy can help. Even just a few sessions with a therapist that is trained to help car accident victims can make a big difference and help drivers regain their confidence to get back out on the road.

If you or someone you love were injured in an auto accident, you have options. If you’d like an experienced auto injury attorney from the Studstill Firm to evaluate your case, please send us an email or call (229) 515-8900.


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